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Riders on the Orphan Train

About Our Program


photoNovelist and Humanities Scholar Alison Moore and singer/songwriter Phil Lancaster have combined audio visual elements, historical fiction and musical ballads into a collaborative performance that brings the Orphan Train movement, a largely-unknown chapter in American history, to public awareness.

The one-and-a-half-hour multi-media presentation, Riders on the Orphan Train, tells the story of the 250,000 orphans and unwanted children who were put on trains in New York between 1854 and 1929 and sent all over the United States to be given away. The presentation is comprised of original music, an audio-visual presentation of archival photographs and interviews with two surviving orphan train riders (a man who came to Berryville, AR and a woman who came to Greenville, TX) and is followed by a dramatic recitation from the new novel "Riders on the Orphan Train" by Alison Moore.

After the presentation, there is an informal discussion led by Alison Moore and Phil Lancaster about the origin and demise of the largest child migration in history and the part it played in the formation of the American Dream. The human struggle to belong, to define one's self in the place we call home is exemplified in the stories of these children that have shaped all of our lives. The one-hour performance will conclude with dialog between presenters and audience on the historical and social significance of the Orphan Trains. The presenters will take questions from the audience and will invite relatives and acquaintances of Orphan Train Riders to share their stories.


Since 1998, Riders on the Orphan Train has been presented in over 300 museums, libraries and schools in Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Arizona. Currently, we are concentrating on underserved areas with funding from various Humanities Councils.

  • Harvard Extension University, Cambridge, Mass.
  • El Paso Museum of History
  • National Orphan Train Complex Museum & Research Center
  • Southern Methodist University, Dallas
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • Tucson Temple of Music and Art sponsored by the Extended University of Arizona
  • Kestrel Festival at Fairmont State College, Fairmont, West Virginia
  • Gemini Ink Literary Center, San Antonio, Texas
  • Capitol Rotunda, Jefferson City, Missouri
  • Associated Writing Programs Conference, Albany, New York
  • Mineral Area Community College, Mineral Area, Missouri
  • Grayson County Community College, Sherman, Texas
  • Southwest Humanities Association Conference, Hot Springs, Arkansas
  • In-Service Teacher Training, Kerrville Folk Festival, Kerrville, Texas


Alison Moore and Phil Lancaster developed the outreach program, Riders on the Orphan Train for The Orphan Train Heritage Society of America, Inc. in Springdale, Arkansas in 1997. We are currently the official outreach program for the National Orphan Train Complex Museum and Research Center in Concordia, KS - www.orphantraindepot.org.



Alison Moore | Phil Lancaster

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